Here is the definitive top 10 list of the best sports cars currently on sale, each with a compelling reason to take top spot – but only one can claim the throne…
22 January 2019

When picturing a modern sports car, you might imagine anything from a lightweight track car or a modern hot hatchback, to a mid-engined two-seater or a front-engined grand touring coupé.

For the purposes of this top 10 chart, however, we can narrow our terms of reference down a bit; Caterham Sevens, Ferrari 488s, Alpine A110s and BMW M cars are ranked and dealt with elsewhere. Here, we’re interested in full-sized, fulsomely endowed, fully rounded dedicated sports cars priced between about £60,000 and £120,000. Only grown-up, big-hitting, multi-faceted and purpose-built options get in.

Front-, mid- and rear-engined offerings are included, likewise rear-drive and four-wheel-drive layouts, open and closed cockpits and both simple petrol and hybrid powertrains. There are plenty of routes towards the level of indulgent performance, vivid handling poise, immersive driver engagement and character you’d expect of a true sports car, after all. But which should you take – and why?

So far we’ve driven the new 992 generation of Porsche’s 911 in both rear-driven Carrera S and four-wheel-drive Carrera 4S guises, the former only on track, and yet both early tests suggested that this eighth-generation, rear-engined sporting hero is every inch as great a driver’s car as the 991 it’s replacing this year – and, if anything, stands ready to take the game away from its rivals.

Having grown longer and slightly wider than the car it replaces, the 992 is so far only available in 444bhp 3.0-litre turbo ‘S’-derivative form, with an eight-speed PDK gearbox and with either rear- or four-wheel drive. Both versions use what used to be called the 911’s ‘widebody’ shell (which has been lightened by more extensive use of aluminium in its construction), while four-wheel steering is now an option even on non-GT-level cars and mixed-width wheels and tyres come as standard.

Our Verdict

Porsche 911

Does Porsche's decision to introduce turbochargers across the 911 range damage its heritage? Or is the foundations of a new era for the supercar you can use everyday?

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Although there’s as much reason as ever for the keenest of drivers to stick with the car’s purer rear-driven mechanical layout, the 992’s wider front axle track and quickened steering ratio seem to have sharpened the car’s handling very effectively. Its turbocharged engine might not have the textural qualities of Porsche’s old atmospheric engines, but it makes for very serious real-world performance – and, overall, for a car that remains without equal among direct rivals for usability, for rounded sporting credibility and especially for the accessible, everyday-use, any-occasion brilliance of its driver appeal.

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The F-Type shows that Jaguar can produce a car of true sporting specialism as well as any German manufacturer. It’s a machine of incredible, multi-faceted allure – and, like the E-Type was, it’s great value.

The car falls short of being truly exceptional – it has too many imperfections and shortcomings for that. On usability, it comes up short next to plenty of sports cars, having only two seats, offering slightly cramped accommodation even for two, and limited boot space in convertible forms. And yet, in multi-cylinder engine guises particularly, it has performance and handling dynamism every bit as boisterous as its throaty, vivacious soul – and a driving experience to savour.

There can be no question that the F-Type is another landmark in the 21st-century recasting of the Jaguar brand. While not perfect, it is an inspired, wonderful car.

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A decade has now passed since the introduction of Lotus’s mid-engined, 2+2 Porsche-chaser, the Evora.

At the time of its introduction, the car brought plenty of qualities to embrace but also flaws to regret. Today, it retains a chassis and steering system that both truly deserve top billing. Few sports cars have such immersive, positive steering, or a ride and handling compromise so suited to life on British roads.

However, that which was questionable about the Evora’s wider case for ownership back in 2009 has become nothing short of decidedly problematic for it now. This Lotus has never really had the powertrain its chassis deserved. Although Hethel now conjures as much as 430bhp from the car’s soulful Toyota-sourced supercharged V6, the Evora’s truculent transmission remains the limit of your enjoyment of it.

A particularly small boot would make weekend touring jaunts difficult, while a tight, inaccessible and relatively antiquated interior stretches the bounds of acceptability on how simple a modern £80,000 sports car ought to be.

Still, if you can find a way to enjoy it, you’ll savour every drive in an Evora. Few cars mix the brilliant with the inadequate quite so strikingly.

The i8 is one of the most compelling and unusual sports cars we’ve tested in years, not only because of its fascinating plug-in hybrid powertrain, its appealing driving experience and its otherworldly design, but also because of how exquisitely finished it feels as a product – both inside and outside – and how easy it would be to live with.

That the car’s handling dynamics fall slightly short of the very best we’d expect of a sports car is a minor drawback for the i8 – but the problem only really takes the edge off the car’s appeal when it comes to track driving.

The i8 will pinch sales from the 911, no doubt. And while the Porsche remains far better to drive, you can easily see why you might fancy driving what feels like the sports car of the future instead.

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However long in the tooth he has become, ‘Godzilla’ is in rude health. If out-and-out real-world, any-condition speed is what you crave from your sports car, nothing does it better below £100k than Nissan’s self-identified ‘world’s fastest brick’ – the incredible, indefatigable GT-R.

But then speed probably isn’t quite all you want in a modern sports car. Nissan knows this. It has therefore tried to make the GT-R a more rounded, luxurious and mature axe-wielding mentalist of a device over recent years and revisions – and it has made a difference, albeit not a big one.

Delicacy and subtlety aren’t this car’s specialisms any more now than before but, compared with the increasingly digital-feeling cars launched around and about it, the GT-R offers more charm than ever.

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As a keen driver, you feel inclined to make a case for the LC. It has a superbly charismatic and likeable V8 engine, and balanced, spry, involving handling makes it feel, at times, more of a natural rival for a Jaguar F-Type or a Porsche 911 than the mix of two- and four-door sporting grand tourers that Lexus identifies as its true opponents. Hence the car’s inclusion here.

The LC seems large, heavy, leaden-footed and a bit cumbersome on the road at times – so you never quite escape a feeling of ambivalence towards the car. On song, its V8 engine is hugely special; on a smooth surface, its sheer agility and balance are quite something. Equally, the car’s cabin, while remarkably luxurious, wants for much in the way of storage space, and its touring credentials are undermined by a particularly unpleasant run-flat-shod secondary ride.

Ultimately, depending on how much you’re moved by its virtues or irked by its shortcomings, this car is either a bit of a rough diamond or the dreaded curate’s egg. For us, it’s much closer to the former.

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If you were asked to predict what the Corvette Stingray would be like to drive based purely on its on-paper specification and how it looks, our bet is that you wouldn’t end up too wide of the mark. This is a fairly large supercar with a brawny naturally aspirated engine up front, a manual gearbox and rear-wheel drive.

Sounds very traditional – and it is, to an extent. But the Corvette comes with an interior which, while not causing sleepless nights in much of Germany, is a quantum leap over that of the model it replaces on quality and equipment.

There’s plenty of ability here, while the car’s chassis is greatly enjoyable if you can find the right places to deploy it. The car’s character is old-school, unreconstructed and best sampled with the electronic driver aids left switched on. Still, it’s very likeable and dramatic.

That Maserati got so many of the basics right with its GranTurismo coupé makes the car’s remaining few failings all the more frustrating. How difficult could it have been to get the seating position right, for example? Or to fix the odd trim fit defect, or perfect the adjustable damping?

More complex, and thus more forgivable, is that just occasionally we wish the GranTurismo’s V8 engine hit a little harder, for all its aural splendour; and that its gearbox felt a little less clunky and antiquated.

While we can’t ignore such troubles in our overall rating, we would be the first to admit the GranTurismo remains a truly desirable car – even in its dotage. It’s a car you no longer need to make excuses to buy or to own and, while it’s now a way off the sports car class’s prevailing dynamic standards, still a pleasure to drive.

The 4C should have been the car to rocket Alfa Romeo back into the headlines and restore its reputation as a maker of world-class driver’s cars. That it took the Giulia saloon to actually achieve that, arriving a few years later than the 4C, says most of what you need to know about this car.

This was supposed to be the sports car with which Turin could launch its talons into the North American market all over again. That idea was soon quashed by Alfa’s management when they realised that the finished 4C, with its carbonfibre construction and hardcore temperament, would be much too uncompromising for that.

The 4C was withdrawn from sale in the UK back in 2016. The spider that remains makes a bad situation worse as regards the car’s price, which was always £10,000 higher than it ought to have been in order to really tempt people out of Porsche Caymans and Lotus Elises even in cheaper coupé form.

The car’s handling is nothing if not direct and involving, and its turbo four-pot engine feels pretty potent in a car this light, though it’s lacking a little on richness. Roundedness and everyday usability are what might prevent you from adopting the 4C: those, at any rate, and the £60k price tag.

After the deletion of the Plus 8, the V6-engined Roadster now represents the top rung of the model ladder for the Morgan Motor Company. It’s a car with a list price starting just north of £55,000, and likely ending beyond £60,000 once you’ve added the optional extras you’re likely to want.

Remembering, of course, that this is a car built on a ladder chassis and wood frame, whose appeal depends about as squarely upon a comfortable pair of rose-tinted glasses as that of mince-based wartime cookery. So you won’t want one with a head-up display and automatic lane keeping – and, as it happens, Morgan doesn’t offer such things.

The last Roadster we drove had the car’s old Ford-sourced 3.0-litre V6 engine, while the new one has a 3.7 with considerably more power and torque to motivate its relatively slight 950kg. So it shouldn’t be a car that wants for performance – particularly since the last car’s handling and steering discouraged press-on driving after a point, the former being fairly balanced and nimble but the latter heavy at town speeds and vague thereafter, suffering with notable bump-steer.

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